Taiwan Sees China's Heir-apparent as Hard-liner

The Communist Party of China held its Central Committee meeting Oct. 15-18. The first steps were taken on drafting the ruling party's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) which envisions continued high growth to cement its place as the world's second largest economy. The meeting also stressed stability and continuity under the expert guidance of the CPC dictatorship. Xi Jinping, the current vice president of the People's Republic of China, was promoted to vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, a key party post. Xi's appointment signals that he will likely become the next PRC president after Hu Jintao retires in 2012.

Xi is being hailed by those in the West with an optimistic view of China as a reformer who favors expansion of the private sector. This assessment is based mainly on the perception that his father was a "progressive" within the party who paid a price for opposing the Tiananmen Square massacre of student democracy activists.  Xi, however, has spent his entire life as a party official without even any experience in the state enterprise sector. The most that can be said is that as party boss of Shanghai, he was in contact with dynamic Chinese and foreign business interests located there. But his job was to channel their energy towards government objectives.

Xi studied Marxist theory and ideological education in a postgraduate program at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tsinghua University during 2000-2002. President Hu has stressed a return to ideology to combat what he fears is a growing indifference to theory among the next generation of party leaders. In practice, this indoctrination is more about Lenin than Marx and is infused with a heady dose of nationalism and a sense of Chinese cultural superiority.

Xi is known to support a strong PRC stand in defense of North Korea. The summer was dominated by military exercises and harsh diplomatic rhetoric surrounding the situation on the Korean peninsula which spread to other disputes along the Pacific Rim from Japan to Vietnam. On Oct. 18, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe accused China of seeking "Lebensraum" (living space), a term used by Nazi Germany to justify its expansion. 

Taiwan is still a major potential flashpoint that could spark a major regional war. On Oct. 13, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, which handles all diplomacy with China, called on Beijing to remove its missiles targeting Taiwan in the name of cross-strait peace and stability. Despite Taiwan's efforts to reduce tensions by entering into a new trade agreement with the mainland, China has continued its military buildup across the strait, threatening the independence of the island democracy.

On Oct. 20, Taiwan's National Security Bureau Director Tsai Teh-sheng told a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Foreign and Defense Committee that despite Xi's dealings with Taiwanese business men in Shanghai, he could not be expected to be "Taiwan-friendly." According to a Taiwanese press report on the meeting,

In the past, Tsai continued, Chinese officials were branded as "dove faction" and "hawk faction" in terms of their stances toward Taiwan. "Such a characterization is meaningless. As far as the sensitive sovereignty and territorial issues are concerned, all Chinese leaders are hard-liners and nationalists," he said.

So a continuity of Chinese ambitions against Taiwan can be expected if Xi follows Hu as PRC President. Which is why on Tuesday, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou denied that he has any intention to meet with Hu anytime soon. While the people of Taiwan favor peace, they are also wary that the appeasement of Beijing could undermine the island's self-rule which has provided them with a much better life than what they see across the strait.